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In my opinion: Private education standards in state education will help

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 06, 2013

By Mike Baker

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An international body has recently rated UK education standards as 21st in the world. Yet recently, ex-PM John Major bemoaned the fact that a high percentage of top jobs are held by ex-public school pupils. Also, a higher number of students attend universities than ever before. I find myself wondering if those rating the various education standards consider all pupils including those from public schools. Or only state schools at secondary level?

Examination of Eton College website today shows that they accept students from all walks of life and no parent should feel that cost should preclude their child entering the school, so that John Major may be misjudging the social class of some ex-Eton boys. Certainly the standards achieved in fee paying schools should be considered in the overall assessment.

English public schools are respected world wide, one reason being that entry is selective. This contrasts with the state system where it is compulsory for every child to attend, irrespective of ability. No teacher in a fee paying school ever faces a class where a majority of pupils either do not speak English, or not as a first language which must affect standards achieved in primary school.

While not every child can be a high achiever, everyone should have the opportunity to develop to the best of their ability. The "gold standard" to aim for, is that wealthy parents would prefer to send their children to state schools. One step toward that utopia, would be to study teaching methods in fee paying schools and use those methods in state school. Two very important points, no fee paying parent would tell their child "you will have to go to school" as though it was an imposition, rather, "you will be able to go to school as soon as you are old enough" in an upbeat way. Similarly, staff at fee paying schools naturally assume their pupils will be high achievers and look for a career, a profession. Judging by the words spoken by Dame Judy Dench when playing the part of a teacher in a recent TV programme: "We are teaching the shop assistants and labourers of tomorrow" the scriptwriter did not feel state schools had great ambition for their pupils. Many state educated children do go on to top jobs, doctors, engineers, architects, as well as becoming tradesmen, policemen ('Men' to include the female), firemen, paramedics, all the jobs essential in modern society.

One mistake the state sector has made in recent years, is to send too many students to university often taking "soft option" degrees, although they may have been better off becoming plumbers, welders or other skilled tradesmen.

There is a tendency to think that things are made in factories today and therefore traditional skills are not required.

But someone has to design and make the machines in the factory. Operating machines is often skilled work.

A BA in History is very worthwhile but everyone needs a plumber or joiner at some time. But a historian?

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